Michael St George’s selections for comment from recent Brexit-related media articles.
NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall
Boxing Clever with the Withdrawal Agreement – Briefings for Britain
Last week’s minor furore over the demand by some Tory MPs for the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be re-negotiated produced a response which concentrated overwhelmingly on the political fall-out.
The predictably indignant among the ranks of the Continuity-Remainers and Aspiring-Rejoiners chuntered censoriously about the abrogation of an international treaty. Others noted acidulously that some of those Tory MPs had themselves voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, a criticism which at least had the merit of being valid. Few bothered to consider whether the aims behind the demand might be achieved without a formal re-negotiation.
However, there’s more than one way to bake a cake, and regular Briefings for Britain contributor ‘Caroline Bell’ has come up with a different method. Instead of provoking what she accurately describes as the ‘Remainer Undead’ into a fresh bout of parliamentary warfare and judicial lawfare, she shows how a combination of smart domestic legislation, leveraging the ambiguities so beloved of EU agreement-drafters and adopting a strictly third-country approach in all our dealings with the EU, could achieve the same desired result.
For those inside the UK Government machine, whether politicians in Westminster or officials in Whitehall, who are determined surreptitiously to keep post-Brexit UK within the EU’s ambit as much possible, the inept handling of both the Covid-19 crisis and the surge in cross-Channel illegal immigration provide a useful smokescreen.
The campaign group Veterans for Britain has long been at the forefront of publicising, not only how the EU’s desire to create a military capability independent of (or as a potential rival to?) NATO remains undimmed, but also how elements within the Ministry of Defence, notwithstanding unconvincing ineffectual protests to the contrary by Defence Secretary (and Remainer) Ben Wallace, continue to beaver away below the radar to make it happen.
The warning from Major General Julian Thompson is thus timely. He shows how accepting the superficially tempting offer of EU participation in the funding of UK defence projects invariably comes at the heavy price of inextricable entanglement in an interlocking web of ‘in one automatically means in all’ commitments, which have pan-European political integration, not military or defence effectiveness, as their overriding purpose.
Making Brexit as difficult as possible for Britain must seem almost literally an article of faith to the Europhile member-state leader or Brussels Eurocrat who sees it, not as a friendly country merely opting democratically for a different relationship, but as an irredeemable heretic deserving of punishment for resiling from the supranationalist religion.
Such uncompromising dogma, however, can be counter-productive. The more harshly the British apostate is treated, the more likely it is that other member-states may start to question whether their best interests are served by remaining part of such a doctrinaire, illiberal and vengeful institution.
Recent polling data reveals signs of this starting to happen, especially in Italy – which perhaps isn’t surprising, given the suffering its population and economy have had to endure under successive Pro-Consuls appointed by the Brussels Imperium over the heads of the leaders chosen by Italian voters – but also in France, which is more surprising, despite the widespread disillusion with ostentatiously pro-European Macron.
Notwithstanding the continued, albeit softening, reluctance to contemplate leaving the EU or the euro, the poll finding that over 40 per cent of both French and Italian people believe Britain will prosper by leaving the bloc is a potential challenge to their leaders’ ongoing Europhilia. It could explain why Macron is being so uncooperative and intransigent about curbing the illegal cross-Channel migrant-smuggling.
In the wake of the warning to MPs that Britain should not realistically expect to achieve more than 60 per cent of its negotiating objectives in the talks of our future trading relationship with the EU, Nigel Farage’s prediction cannot be easily dismissed.
At TCW’s Brexit Watch, we’ve previously expressed our reservations at Boris Johnson’s stated intention to get more personally involved in the Brexit trade talks, not only because of his notorious lack of attention to detail and justified fears about his desire for a deal at all costs, but also because of his erratic and diminished performance since his bout of Covid-19.
So the news a few days ago that David Frost would stay on as Brexit negotiator, in addition to his new role as National Security Adviser, if a satisfactory deal is not agreed by September, was, on the face of it, reassuring. Except that it was Frost who had delivered that ‘no more than 60 per cent of negotiating objectives’ warning to MPs.
Is it possible that Macron is ramping up his intransigence on curbing cross-Channel migrant-smuggling from knowledge of the extent of public anger that the Johnson Government’s apparent inability or unwillingness to prevent it is creating in Britain, in order to incentivise the UK into making concessions on fishing rights and continuing EU financial obligations, in return for more French maritime ‘co-operation’?
If so, and the over-eager Johnson falls for it, then Farage may well turn out to have been correct.